GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Agriculture and Conservation
Direction: The article tries to establish the relationship between regenerative agriculture, soil health and conservation.
Context: Farmers, activists and agricultural research organisations across the world are developing methods of regenerative agriculture, going a step ahead of sustainable agriculture, not only to maintain the resources like soil and water but also to improve them.
- The Green Revolution in the 1960s saved India from starvation and transformed it into not only a self-sufficient but also a major food exporter country.
- But the revolution also made India the world’s biggest extractor of groundwater.
- According to the UN’s World Water Development Report, 2022, the country extracts 251 cubic km or more than a quarter of the world’s groundwater each year and 90% of this is used for agriculture.
- Agriculture must operate in unison with nature, not against it, if it is to continue feeding the country’s undernourished population and driving the economy.
- In India, the Union and state governments (UK, HP, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Gujarat) are promoting regenerative agriculture with an aim to reduce application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and to lower input costs.
The regenerative agriculture:
- It is a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health with attention also paid to water management, fertiliser use, etc.
- It is a method of farming, under which emphasis is placed on looking holistically at the agro-ecosystem, improving the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them.
Key techniques include:
Benefits: Links between regenerative agriculture, soil health and water saving –
- Maintaining soil health: Chemical-less farming and cultivation practices such as crop rotation and diversification help improve soil structure and its organic carbon content.
- Water conservation: Healthy soil helps in improving water-use efficiency by better water storage, transmission, filtering and reduces agricultural run-off.
Efforts in India to promote regenerative agriculture:
- The National Project on Organic Farming.
- Systematic rice intensification, a method in which seeds are spaced at wider distances and organic manure is applied to improve yields.
- Zero-budget natural farming, now known as Subhash Palekar Natural Farming, emphasises on preparing and using inputs made from crop residue, cow dung and urine, fruits, among other things.
Challenges: There are no structured studies available on the water-saving potential of regenerative agriculture.
- As civil society organisations and farmers do not have the capacity to conduct long-term studies, scientific bodies are best equipped to do such trials and calculations.
- Such research will go a long way in promoting regenerative agriculture.
Q. How and to what extent would micro-irrigation help in solving India’s water crisis? (UPSC 2021)
Prelims Links: (UPSC 2018)